Object of the Month: Table, c. 1781

My name is Mia Jackson and I am Curator of Decorative Arts at Waddesdon Manor. This small table was made in around 1781 for the personal use of Queen Marie-Antoinette of France by her favoured cabinetmaker Jean-Henri Riesener.

I am fickle on the subject of my favourite object in Waddesdon’s Collections, but this table’s minute perfection, its superlative craftsmanship and the romance of its provenance mean it is an object to which I often return, and that I always point out.  

It is a small but very useful table. It has a drawer, with containers for writing materials, and a leather-covered slide, which when extended horizontally can be used as a writing surface, but which also can be pulled up at an angle and transformed into a reading stand.

It is veneered with detailed marquetry trophies emblematic of Poetry and the Arts, in oval reserves against a trellis-patterned background - and it is composed of thousands of tiny pieces of many different woods - variously shaded and dyed. The veneer is less than a millimetre thick. The gilt-bronze mounts were probably gilded by Francois Remond in 1782, and are so finely cast and chased, they could almost be jewellery.

After the French Revolution, when the collections at Versailles were sold off following the deaths of the Royal Family,  this piece came to the United Kingdom, although we do not know exactly when. By 1852 it was in the collections of the 10th Duke of Hamilton, and at the famous 1882 Hamilton Palace Sale, it was bought by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild for £6000, a price which caused a scandal. It has remained at Waddesdon Manor ever since, and as soon as you are able to, please do come and admire it for yourself!
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